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Ep 3: Intentionally Shaping Company Culture After an Acquisition

How do you merge company culture after an acquisition? What do you intentionally change, and what do you intentionally leave the same?

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Meet Scott Erickson, Director of Human Resources @ Campbell Scientific

Follow Scott on LinkedIn

Scott leads the global Human Resources department at Campbell Scientific overseeing people operations for 700+ team members across 15 global locations.

Prior to working for Campbell Scientific, Scott worked as a Regional HR Manager at RR Donnelley for 24 years leading the HR function for the Logan, Utah site in addition to various regions in the Midwest, Northwest, Southwest, Nevada, and California.

Scott started his career in HR working as the Human Resources Manager for the JR Simplot Company during and shortly after finishing college.

He holds a bachelor’s degree from Utah State University’s School of Business in Human Resource Management with minors in Economics and Spanish.

Scott enjoys spending time with family, college football, reading, flyfishing and traveling.

About Campbell Scientific

Campbell Scientific is an international leader in the measurement and control industry. Founded in 1974, Campbell Scientific designs and manufactures data acquisition systems for measuring weather, water, energy, soil and more. Known for exceptional accuracy and durability, Campbell scientific systems are used around the globe from the arctic to the tropic, high mountains and desert valleys. Campbell Scientific products are used by the Professional Golf Association for lightning warnings at premiere golf events. The Panama Government also uses Campbell Scientific products for accurate water-level forecasting at the Panama Canal. 

Learn more at: campbellsci.com

Episode Highlights

How Can Culture Drive Greater Profits?

Crista Vance: I'd love to hear from your perspective, your many years of experience, how you feel culture drives greater profits?

Scott Erickson: Sure, That's a really, really good question because I think a lot of times when we think of human resources and some of what we call soft skills. There's questions about how that links to profit and I think we tend to measure a lot of what we call people metrics here at Campbell Scientific. And there are things like turnover and retention.Definitely, revenue per employee. We return maps on products, and net promoter scores from employees

And so, as you think about, how does the culture, the product or excuse me, how does it drive the profits? We have What we call a success cycle that we look at and calibrate with fairly regularly and that's success cycle. It has to start somewhere. And I think every company in some way, shape, or form,

Tries to strike the balance between, What are the needs of the employees and the shareholders, which comes first, and what do you prioritize? And if you're in difficult times, which one gets first in line? We have an amazing executive team at Campbell Scientific and our CEO in particular has had this conversation with me that there's a fundamental belief, that happy and engaged employees produce amazing products and processes and services which leads to happy and loyal customers and solid financial return

So the cycle for us starts with the employees and there's faith that it will lead to amazing products and processes customers will feel better about, spending their money on our products and having our products and keeping money in their bank accounts. And then that in turn gives us solid financial return that is reinvested back into the employees and the company. 

Prioritizing People in Practice, with the Right Attitude in Mind

Crista Vance: I love the thought of [Campbell Scientific’s culture approach] being a very cyclical process that fuels the other parts of the business. I'd love to hear what that looks like at Campbell Scientific. In what ways do you try to increase your employees’ happiness?

Scott Erickson: I would never lead everybody to believe that everybody is happy every day. As much as we try and as much as we would like that to be, I think humility and the sense of knowing that you can continually improve is probably one of the roots of a strong culture, that you don't ever have it figured out or have it down, but that you are continually trying to, identify things that you can do better. 

Ways we prioritize our people at Campbell Scientific in practice:

  • Executive Communication: Our CEO takes a huge amount of that responsibility upon his own shoulders to be out front and visible with the employees, keeping them informed about what's going on with the business. There's probably a lot of people that could deliver that message, but he likes to own that message and be accountable for that message. 
  • Benefits Package: We strive to have a benefit package. that's, focused on the being of our employees and their families, that gives them less to worry about when they're not at work so that they're taking care of and that's always it a balance with the financial side of providing those benefits. 
  • Relationship Strengthening Activities: We do a lot of activities with our employees. We do things, like midweek mingles, to try to just pull away from work for a few minutes in the middle of the week. Bring people together in common spaces and, share a short experience together and then go back to work and those things can be powerful. 
  • Training: Lots of training and development that happens. 
  • People Leader Hiring Approach: I think one of the things that we try to do is try to choose leaders that get a lot of personal satisfaction out of seeing other people grow.

Matt Vance: I love how you emphasize the point of having humility and understanding that no organization is perfect, that not everyone can be perfectly happy in any given moment.

You listed several different attributes that are present in the Campbell scientific culture from communication to a well-thought-out benefits strategy, to activities that can help link, and foster positive relationships and hiring, and promoting leaders who put people first, and who care about the success and growth of others. 

But even with all that said, Maybe there's an employee of Campbell Scientific listening to this exact episode and they say: “I disagree with some of this!” What I've seen from helping lead other organizations through company culture  transformations is you have to be intentional with that communication and sharing almost like a roadmap for your culture of what you're doing now and what you're doing next to continue improving. So I just loved that almost “caveat” per say: “Hey, we're not perfect” because anybody who says that, there are problems underneath. 

Intentionally Shaping Company Culture After an Acquisition

Matt Vance: Scott, you mentioned that there have been some acquisitions in the more recent history of Campbell Scientific. Tell us how you merge company culture when bringing a new organization into the business. What do you intentionally change and what do you intentionally? Leave the same.

Scott Erickson: We've got three companies here in the United States that we've brought together and I'll say they're a family of companies. They each have their own customer bases, their own employees, past their own culture, that's developed and as we've bought them and tried to bring them together, we've tried to allow them to maintain their own personality and their own leadership ideas but we've also tried to bring together our approach. We haven't changed the company values of any of the three, but we've tried to find the common ground in the values. 

Another thing we've done is look at leadership training and have tried to implement it more globally. Everything in terms of benefits, we’re trying to shape it globally. That means compensation systems and plans are global. We want to just some degree win together and lose together. We want to support those companies, just like we do our own. We want success to be something that if we profit as an organization, we share that profit back with our employees. We continue to invest in research and development and innovation, but we're still trying to figure that out. we know that we've got a lot of work to do.

 I think the one thing that I found so far is that when you go and you spend time together eyeball-to-eyeball in a room and you work on the problems together, it seems like more often than not you find out that you've got more in common than you do differences. And once you can agree on that common ground, then you work together to solve the problems and to try to become one. 

Crista Vance: I like that. It seems smart to not try and force all the employees from different companies to assemble into one value system. Focusing on those commonalities and then eventually you just become more united over time. I think adding the global training as well you become more unified over time.

Scott Erickson: [We’ve also] tried to look at our collective HR group [from all three companies] as one group of human resource professionals and leverage the strength of the different people. So that we've got people from one side of the organization that are not only doing their day today at their site but they're leading globally in functional responsibilities that they have good experience in. And I think by dividing up some of those functional responsibilities and having the leadership of human resources and the global decisions that we're making inside the US and outside the US coming from, different sites. I think that's helped bring us together too because it's not one site controlling everything. There's a lot of delegation of responsibility and authority and yes, we do have a headquarters, but we're working together to figure things out. 

We’re making time every week for every single direct report and every one that's leading those functional teams to just calibrate and make sure we're moving down a path together and on the same page based on the values and principles of the company. That's really helped us to accelerate our performance. and we're not there yet, but we've got good traction and we're moving in a good direction.

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